I would highly recommend the Palais de Tokyo. What it is is a kind of destroyed building that's super deconstructed. You just kind of wander around in what appears to be a construction site. The shows the museum has are really extraordinary. There's a fantastic cafe, too, and an outdoor area where people go to read the newspaper, and you can get drinks there. When I was there last, the floor of the cafe had been painted by this artist, so people were walking around on a piece of art. The gift shop at Palais de Tokyo is unlike any museum gift shop you've ever been in. They have little handmade sock puppets, made by a particular artist, that you can only find there. There's also a really incredible bookstore. It's a huge building, so it's a great way to get exercise. And you know, half the time the walls are maybe raw concrete or kind of decrepit-looking paint, half falling off. And you're looking at it and wondering if this is part of the exhibit or if this just happens to be the wall.
In a way, Paris is the New York of France. People are brusque and moving pretty quickly through their day. And if you're in the way, you're in the way. I'd say it's become much friendlier to non-French-speaking people in the past six years, though. But it's still a big city. And it's everything you'd imagine it was if you'd never been … to the 10th power. It is that romantic. It is that civilized. The parks are that unbelievably lovely. And the way the city has melded its history with the 21st century and more modern ideas is really, I think, to be applauded.
I'LL TAKE THE RAIN
Just walking through the Louvre and the garden is really extraordinary. They'll have a little carnival set up near the Placede la Concorde. People sit around the fountains, and there are these beautiful metal chairs you can sit in and read the newspaper, eat a baguette, or, you know, feel Parisian for a moment. It's really awesome, even when it rains or the weather is inclement, which is common in Paris. It might be overcast and there are beautiful rolling clouds that just come for days and days or weeks and weeks. Even when it's raining, to walk the gardens of the Louvre is nice, because the air is really clean and it just feels so distinctly French, you can't possibly imagine being anywhere else.
THE GREAT BEYOND
The idea behind the Centre Pompidou [pictured at right], the one that has all of the beautiful pipes going up on the outside of it, and which was done long before Blade Runner was a film, was to expose what's usually hidden in a building and put it on the outside. So they ran all of the pipes on the outside, and now it's a landmark. It may be complacent to say that it's right up there with Notre Dame, but when you think of Paris, you think of the Pompidou. It has this huge courtyard, like a football field, that moves at a slight angle going down to the entrance, so you feel like you're almost rolling into the place. And then you're in there, and you're just caught up in all the different exhibits they have. They have really good taste. Go to the Pompidou midafternoon, enjoy the museum, and then plan on going up to the roof afterward. The thing to do is go there half an hour before dusk and watch the sun set. It looks out over all of Paris. There's a fountain there, so you're getting a reflection of the sky and the Pompidou itself. The roof of the Pompidou is all glass, and inside they built these massive pods. These giant, amorphous, kind of amoeba-looking pods. It's unlike any other place I've ever been to. It really looks like something out of A Clockwork Orange. The Costes brothers have [restaurants] all over Paris, including at the top of the Centre Pompidou. You have to go there for the view alone, but the menu is really good and the food is fresh. Or you can just sit and have a Coca-Cola. I'd probably have a glass of Champagne or a Campari at dusk. It's a great way to see the city.